A federal judge declined Monday to reopen a landmark voting rights case filed by Navajo residents in southeastern Utah, suggesting that San Juan County’s Republican-controlled leadership has led “a pretty vigorous effort” to comply with the redistricting that he ordered last year to reverse the political domination by whites over American Indians there. It’s a surprising dismissal that for now ends the six-year legal battle that has overtaken politics in this remote and rural corner of the state and left lingering bad blood over the ruling. (The county has an appeal still pending.) “I have little doubt that after six years of litigation in this case, there’s not a lot of fond feelings and also some level of distrust,” said U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby. “But this process we’ve been engaged in here [with the request to reopen the case] is not helpful in correcting any of that.”
Shelby ordered Monday’s expedited hearing last month after six Navajo plaintiffs asked for a chance to argue that San Juan should be found in contempt of court, alleging that the county had done little in the past six months to implement the redrawn boundaries for voting districts or to update its precinct lists as ordered in December.
As many as 2,000 voters, they said, mostly those living on the Navajo Nation, did not receive or had an incorrect ballot for the June 26 countywide primary, the first under the ruling.